The Conservative government’s policies risk systematically stripping children of their rights, a report for the United Nations has found.
An assessment by the four children’s commissioners of the UK, the first full-scale review for seven years, called on the government to reconsider its deep welfare cuts, voiced “serious concerns” about children being denied access to justice in the courts, and called on ministers to rethink plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.
The commissioners, representing each of the constituent nations of the UK, conducted their review of the state of children’s policies as part of evidence they will present on Wednesday to the UN revealing how much progress has been made under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Many of the government’s decisions are questioned by the report as being in breach of the convention, which has been ratified by the UK. England’s children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, said:
“We are finding and highlighting that much of the country’s laws and policies defaults away from the view of the child. That’s in breach of the treaty. What we found again and again was that the best interest of the child is not taken into account.”
In particular there are continuing concerns over the issues of abuse and the impact on children – with 25% of children in the UK exposed to domestic abuse between adults in their homes at some point in childhood. Studies reveal that in family courts “many of the youngest and most vulnerable children are currently not heard”.
Perhaps the most shocking finding is the rise of peer-on-peer domestic abuse among young people. Commissioners say that almost two thirds of “contact sexual abuse of children was perpetrated by other children”.
Longfield said that “over the next five years it will be the case that there will be an enormous number of children through the court system and we need to reflect the need to engage and listen to them in a way that is not happening now”.
The commissioners argue the government’s plans to “break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights” by scrapping the Human Rights Act is a backwards step.
An election candidate made a brave revelation that she is a victim of rape during a hustings on female issues organised by the Darlington and Durham Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre.
Liberal Democrat candidate Anne-Marie Curry told the large gathering at Darlington Dolphin Centre’s Central Hall that it took her 22-years to accept she had been in an abusive relationship during her early 20s.
She described how she had witnessed some awful treatment of women during her upbringing in Uganda and that she had been threatened with knives when she later lived in Holland.
She said: “I seem to have opened myself up to rather destructive relationships from then on.
“At the age of 21 I was in a relationship and he was emotionally bullying me, hitting me and raping me.
“I didn’t realise that at the time, I only realised that in my 40s.”
Ms Curry’s revelation earned a round of applause and she said she wanted to speak out to bring the issue of domestic violence into the open.
“I can understand that women in that situation can find it really, really difficult to cope with what has happened to them.
“I am now coping, I am strong and I really want to shout about it because it (domestic abuse) is wrong.
Labour candidate Jenny Chapman said she was “blown away” and felt humbled by what Ms Curry had shared.
The hustings, chaired by Durham University professor Nicole Westmarland, touched on a range of female issues including funding problems experienced by rape crisis and support centres and whether more should be done to educate youngsters about domestic abuse.
The problems experienced by many victims of domestic abuse throughout the legal process were also highlighted, with all candidates agreeing that more needed to be done to support them.
All candidates also agreed that abuse and crimes against women were a key issue and Ms Chapman said that Labour planned to scrap Police and Crime Commissioners and would appoint a Women’s Commissioner in parliament.
The hustings was attended by Darlington’s candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Green, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties who all signed a pledge to support women’s services.
UKIP candidate Dave Hodgson could not attend due to work commitments.
> Could he, given his party’s record, have signed it with a clear conscience anyway ?
Source – Northern Echo, 02 May 2015
A draconian rule which saw 3,600 Sandwell residents being forced to pay a higher rate in Council Tax has been ruled unlawful, Inside Housing has reported today.
Labour dominated Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, introduced a policy in April 2013 that prevented anyone who had not lived in the area for at least two years from claiming a reduction in Council Tax, regardless of whether they could afford to pay or not.
The policy affected around 3,600 local residents and was challenged by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) on behalf of three claimants, two of which have been forced to leave the area due to inability to pay the higher charge.
One of the claimants is a victim of domestic abuse, while another has mental health issues. The third is said to be a widow.
Judge Hickinbottom said that the Council’s decision to strip local residents of their right to claim a reduction in Council Tax, and subsequent legal defense, was like trying to “make bricks without straw”.
He added that the Council had presented no viable defence or evidence and was acting unlawfully by failing to conduct a “race or gender impact of the residence requirement, at or before it adopted the scheme”.
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of CPAG, said:
“This ruling confirms what should have been obvious to the Council from the start: it cannot be sensible or right to charge people on low incomes a higher rate of council tax simply because they are new to the area.
“If Sandwell Council had given any thought to this policy, or held a consultation it might have realised this earlier. Instead thousands of people have been threatened with arrears and some people, even those who like these claimants were originally born and bred in Sandwell, have been forced to move away.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 30 July 2014